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The waking dead!) There on the sea he standsThe spectre-horse-He moves; he gains the sands!
Onward he speeds. His ghostly sides
Are streaming with a cold, blue light.
Heaven keep the wits of him who rides
The spectre-horse tonight!
His path is shining like a swift ship's wake;
He gleams before Lee's door like day's gray break.
The revel now is high within;
It breaks upon the midnight air.
They little think, 'midst mirth and din,
What spirit waits them there.
As if the sky became a voice, there spread
A sound to appal the living, stir the dead.
The spirit-steed sent up the neigh.
It seem'd the living trump of hell,
Sounding to call the damn'd away,
To join the host that fell.
It rang along the vaulted sky: the shore
Jarr'd hard, as when the thronging surges roar.
It rang in ears that knew the sound;
And hot, flush'd cheeks are blanch'd with fear.
And why does Lee look wildly round?
Thinks he the drown'd horse near?
He drops his cup-his lips are stiff with fright.
Nay, sit thee down!-It is thy banquet night.
"I cannot sit. I needs must go:
The spell is on my spirit now.
I go to dread-I go to wo!"
O, who so weak as thou,
Strong man!-His hoofs upon the door-stone, see,
The shadow stands !-His eyes are on thee, Lee!
Thy hair pricks up!" O, I must bear
His damp, cold breath! It chills my frame!
His eyes-their near and dreadful glare
Speak that I must not name!"
Thou 'rt mad to mount that horse!" A power within,
I must obey-cries, 'mount thee, man of sin!" "
He's now astride the spectre's back,
With rein of silk, and curb of gold.
'Tis fearful speed !—the rein is slack
Within his senseless hold:
Nor doth he touch the shade he strides-upborne
By an unseen power.-God help thee, man forlorn!
He goes with speed: he goes with dread!
And now they 're on the hanging steep!
And, now! the living and the dead,
They'll make the horrid leap!
The horse stops short :-his feet are on the verge.
He stands, like marble, high above the surge.
And, nigh, the tall ship yet burns on,
With red, hot spars and crackling flame.
From hull to gallant, nothing's gone.
She burns, and yet 's the same!
Her hot, red flame is beating, all the night,
On man and horse, in their cold, phosphor light.
Through that cold light the fearful man
Sits looking on the burning ship.
Thou ne'er again wilt curse and ban.
How fast he moves the lip!
And yet he does not speak, or make a sound!
What see you, Lee,-the bodies of the drown'd?
"I look, where mortal man may not-
Into the chambers of the deep.
I see the dead, long, long forgot
I see them in their sleep.
A dreadful power is mine, which none can know,
Save he who leagues his soul with death and wo.'
Thou mild, sad mother-waning moon,
Thy last, low, melancholy ray
Shines toward him.--Quit him not so soon!
Mother, in mercy, stay!
Despair and death are with him; and canst thou,
With that kind, earthward look, go leave him now?
O, thou wast born for things of love;
Making more lovely in thy shine
Whate'er thcu look'st on. Ilosts above,
In that soft light of thine,
Burn softer:-earth, in silvery veil, seems heaven.-
Thou 'rt going down!-Thou 'st left him unforgiven!
The far, low west is bright no more.
How still it is! No sound is heard
At sea, or all along the shore,
But cry of passing bird.
Thou living thing,—and dar'st thou come so near
These wild and ghastly shapes of death and fear?
Now long that thick, red light has shone
On stern, dark rocks, and deep, still bay,
On man and horse that seem of stone,
So motionless are they.
But now its lurid fire less fiercely burns:
The night is going-faint, gray dawn returns.
That spectre-steed now slowly pales;
Now changes like the moonlit cloud.
That cold, thin light, now slowly fails,
Which wrapt them like a shroud.
Both ship and horse are fading into air.—
Lost, mazed, alone, see, Lee is standing there!
The morning air blows fresh on him;
The waves dance gladly in his sight;
The sea-birds call, and wheel, and skim-
O, blessed morning light!
He doth not hear that joyous call; he sees
No beauty in the wave; he feels no breeze.
For he 's accurst from all that's good;
He ne'er must know his healing power.
The sinner on his sins must brood;
Must wait, alone, his hour.
Thou stranger to earth's beauty-human love,
There's here no rest for thee, no hope above!
The hot sun beats upon his head.
He stands beneath its broad, fierce blaze,
As stiff and cold as one that 's dead:
A troubled, dreamy maze
Of some unearthly horror, all he knows-
Of some wild horror past, and coming woes.
The gull has found her place on shore;
The sun 's gone down unto his rest;
All's still but ocean's weary roar-
There stands the man unblest.
But, see, he moves-he turns, as asking where
His mates!-Why looks he with that piteous stare?
Go, get thee home, and end thy mirth!
Go, call the revellers again!
They've fled the isle; and o'er the earth
Are wanderers, like Cain.
As he his door-stone past, the air blew chill.
The wine is on the board; Lee, take thy fill!
"There's none to meet me, none to cheer:
The seats are empty-lights burnt out;
And I alone, must sit me here:
Would I could hear their shout!"
Thou ne'er shalt hear it more—more taste thy wine !— Silent thou sitt'st within the still moonshine.
Day came again; and up he rose,
A weary man, from his lone board.
Nor merry feast, nor sweet repose
Did that long night afford.
No shadowy-coming night, to bring him rest-
No dawn, to chase the darkness of his breast!
He walks within the day's full glare
A darken'd man. Where'er he comes,
All shun him. Children peep and stare;
Then, frighted, seek their homes.
Through all the crowd a thrilling horror ran.
They point and say "There goes the evil man!"
He turns and curses in his wrath
Both man and child; then hastes away
Shoreward, or takes some gloomy path;
But there he cannot stay:
Terror and madness drive him back to men;
His hate of man to solitude again.
Time passes on, and he grows bold-
His eye more fierce, his oaths more loud.
None dare from Lee the hand withhold;
He rules and scoffs the crowd.
But still at heart there lies a secret fear;
For now the year's dread round is drawing near.
He swears; but he is sick at heart;
He laughs; but he turns deadly pale.
His restless eye and sudden start-
These tell the dreadful tale
That will be told: it needs no words from thee,
Thou self-sold slave to fear and misery.
Bond-slave of sin, see there—that light!
"Ha! take me-take me from its blaze!
Nay, thou must ride the steed tonight!
But many weary days
And nights will shine and darken o'er thy head,
Ere thou wilt go with him to meet the dead.
Again the ship lights all the land;
Again Lee strides the spectre-beast;
Again upon the cliff they stand--
This once thou 'lt be released!—
Gone horse and ship; but Lec's last hope is o'er;
Nor laugh, nor scoff, nor rage, can help him more.
His spirit heard that spirit say,
"Listen!-I twice have come to thee.
Once more-and then a dreadful way!
And thou must go with me!"
Ay, cling to earth as sailor to the rock!
Sea-swept, suck'd down in the tremendous shock,
He goes! So thou must loose thy hold,
And go with death; nor breathe the balm
Of early air, nor light behold,
Nor sit thee in the calm
Of gentle thoughts, where good men wait their close.—
In life, or death, where look'st thou for repose?
Who's yonder on that long, black ledge,
Which makes so far into the sea?
See! there he sits, and pulls the sedge-
Poor, idle Matthew Lee!
So weak and pale? A year and little more,
And thou didst lord it bravely round this shore.